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Thyden Gross and Callahan LLPCounselors and Attorneys at Law

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Maryland Divorce Legal Crier

News and comments about divorce, child support, child custody, alimony, equitable property distribution, father’s rights, mother’s rights, family law, laws on divorce and other legal information in Maryland.

Archive for July, 2012

Black Wedding Dress

Monday, July 30th, 2012

wedding

Vera Wang announced earlier this month that she was divorcing her husband of 23 years.

It could be what inspired her new collection of wedding gowns.

The 2012 Collection contains black wedding dresses (there are red and beige ones, two).

Gay Couples Can Divorce in DC Without Living There

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Normally, you get divorced in the place where you live, not where you were married.  And there is typically a residency requirement.  In DC, for example, at least one of the parties must have been a resident of the jurisdiction for six months immediately prior to filing a complaint for divorce.

But what if you can’t get divorced in the state where you live?  Same sex couples can’t get divorced in Virginia.

Earlier this year, DC passed an amendment to the law that creates an exception to the residency requirement.  Now, same sex couples can file for divorce in DC if they were married in DC and both parties now live in a state that does not permit them to be divorced.  DC Code Section 16-902.

Karma and Mr. Shiply

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Cullen, the firm’s senior lawyer, was explaining to Frank, an associate in the firm, how Karma played a role in two cases, Mr. Cokely and Mr. Shiply.  Frank listened spellbound as Cullen continue his story.

“Mr. Shiply had tears in his eyes when he came to my office.  He loved his wife of 20 years dearly.  They had built a successful antiques business together.  But she cheated on him and to add insult to injury, she was claiming the business was all hers in the divorce.”

“There were various suits filed with claims and counterclaims and the usual legal battles and skirmishes.  Mr. Shiply was distressed by all this, but he was a kind and gentle person.  He took the high road even when his wife did not.  Finally, the case settled with Mr. Shiply being paid a handsome sum by the wife for his interest in the business.”

“Mr. Shiply was now independently wealthy.  He was grateful for his legal services, paid his bill promptly, and sent over a bottle of wine in celebration of his case finally being over.  We became friends.”

“He was offered a job by another friend to acquire antiquities for an art museum.  Other friends introduced him to eligible women.  He was particularly attracted to one who had a PhD in computer science.  They were wed a year later.”

“They acquired several acres of land and built a magnificent house. It is seven years later now, they are content, have lots of friends including me, and they are living the life of The Great Gatsby”.

“Wow!” said Frank. “I see what you mean.  The difference between Mr. Cokely’s life and Mr. Shiply’s life is quite a contrast.  Karma!”

Karma

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

“Karma!” said Cullen, the firm’s senior lawyer.  “There’s a big pendulum up in the sky that eventually makes everything even.”

From experience, Frank knew Cullen’s habit of starting a conversation in the middle as if his thoughts to himself were part of the conversation.

“What do you mean?” Frank asked, and sat down in the client chair in front of Cullen’s desk, because he knew there was a story coming.

Cullen put his feet on the battered desk top and leaned back in his leather chair.  “I’ll tell you a tale of two different cases and you tell me if Karma was at work.  The first is the Cokely case.  Mr. Cokely built a successful career as a business broker.  But times were tough when he came to see me for his divorce.  His wife had lawyered up and pleadings were flying.”

“Mr. Cokely was a tough negotiator from his experience in buying and selling businesses.  His strategy for negotiations was to project strength and power. The problem was that Mr. Cokely viewed the world as a hostile place.  He was rude, insulting, and critical.”

“Halfway through the trial, it was clear that the judge didn’t like him.”

“Mr. Cokely blamed his lawyers for a bad result in his case (although the assets were divided about equally), and demanded a large discount on his unpaid legal fees.  The firm withdrew from representing him.”

“Now Mr. Cokely is an unemployed investment adviser with half the assets he had before, no friends, no wife, no lawyer and no customers.  Mr. Cokely may never recover from his divorce.  Karma caught up with him.”

Next: Karma and Mr. Shiply

Divorce Quotes

Friday, July 20th, 2012

“Do not say a little in many words but a great deal in a few.” – Pythagoras

Budget Cuts End Free Custody Mediation Services

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

In the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, Maryland, if residential child custody was in dispute at the Scheduling Hearing, the Court would order custody mediation.

The mediators were paid Court employees and mediation was free to the parties.

Due to budget cuts, this service was terminated on July 13, 2012.  Parties can still use private mediators, but more custody cases may end up being tried at even greater costs to the judicial system and the parties.

The Bare Necessities

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Diana James married Jon James in 1974.  During the marriage neither of them was employed and the couple lived off the interest generated by Diana’s trust fund set up by her father, which was over $500,000 a year when Diana left Jon in 1990.

Jon asked for pendente lite alimony (temporary support) in the divorce which included future tuition payments so that he could obtain a PhD in psychology.  He already had a Masters Degree.   The court granted his request and awarded him $8,000 a month in pendente lite alimony for living expense, education and suit money.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed, saying that future education expenses were not necessary to preserve the status quo of Jon’s lifestyle while the suit was pending.  Therefore, while they could be considered in determining statutory alimony at the divorce trial, they could not be awarded as pendente lite alimony before the trial.

James v. James, 96 Md. App. 439; 625 A.2d 381 (1993)

Prenup or No Prenup?

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Carolyn Hax wrote an interesting column in The Washington Post in response to a woman who was surprised when her fiancé presented her with a prenup a month and a half before the wedding.

There were many comments discussing the pros and cons of prenuptial agreements.  But to my mind, people were missing the point.

They set the problem up as though the choices were having a prenup and getting divorced or living happily ever after in marriage until death do us part.

The thing is the legislature has already made a prenuptial agreement for you which is the default if you do not make your own.  It is called the domestic relations law and it is contained in the law books which publish the code for your state and the appellate cases which interpret that law.  It is several  pages long and incredibly complicated.  You will be blissfully unaware of it until and unless you get divorced.  Then you will say, “The law says what?”

So I think the choices are actually these: In the unhappy event we do get divorced, (a) do we want to make our own agreement now or (b) do we want the law, the judge and the lawyers to make one for us later?  Hopefully, you will make a prenuptial agreement and throw it in a drawer somewhere and never have to pull it out.

Settlement Letters

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

I just received a bad settlement letter.  I don’t mean the terms were bad.  But the presentation was terrible.  Rather than move things forward, it will cause my client to dig in her heels and make settlement that much harder.  My standard for a settlement letter is one that leaves the reader nodding their head in agreement by the time they get to the end.  Here are five suggestions for writing a good settlement letter.

1.  The Purpose of Your Letter. I think the problem a lot of lawyers have with writing settlement letters is they write them for their clients instead of for the opposing party.  If they think about it at all (and I’m not sure they do) the purpose of the letter should be to effect a settlement, not client relations.

2.  Who Is Your Reader? To be sure, this letter is better than the inflammatory correspondence I get from some lawyers.  But it could be improved upon.  We all think if we just talk and talk, we will persuade someone to our way of thinking.  They will hit their head with their hand and say “Oh, now I see what you mean!”  But it doesn’t work that way.  Most writers write from their own perspective and never think about the reader.  I try to write from the reader’s perspective.

3.  Get to the Point. The letter I received takes three single spaced sentences to say we are increasing our previous offer a little bit.  The preamble to this is a statement of facts spun in favor of the sender’s client.  Admittedly you can charge your client more for this letter than a one sentence letter.

4.  You Are Not the Judge.  The letter also talks about the law that applies to the facts.  But there is no smooth transition to a conclusion.  The letter spins the facts, states the law, and then states how the lawyer thinks the judge will apply the law to their facts.  Therefore, the letter concludes, my client better take their offer or she will get less at trial.  Since I can never predict how a judge will rule at trial, it annoys me when other lawyers do it.  But why do they think their opinion of the judge’s opinion will be persuasive?  Doesn’t every lawyer think his case is on the side of the angels?

5.  Smooth Out the Rough Edges.  How about being empathic and sympathetic with my client whose marriage is ending?  Why not be honest and say you don’t know how the judge might rule, but your offer has certain benefits to my client in addition to avoiding uncertainty and the time, trouble and costs of trial?  Finally, we all are more likely to settle with someone we like than someone we don’t like.  So a few pleasantries will help rather than the cold formalities that most lawyers employ.

The Difference Between Statutory and Pendente Lite Alimony

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Time

  • Statutory alimony may be indefinite or rehabilitative or both.  Indefinite alimony means until either spouse dies or the payee remarries.  Rehabilitative alimony means for a fixed period of time.
  • Pendente lite alimony is paid during the legal proceedings until the divorce trial.  Pendente lite alimony is also called temporary alimony.

Purpose

  • The purpose of statutory alimony is to enable a person to become financially able to support theirself.
  • The purpose of pendente lite alimony is to maintain the status quo until trial.

Elements

  • To determine statutory alimony, the court must consider various factors, including fault.
  • To determine pendente lite alimony, the court considers the payee’s needs and the payor’s ability to pay.

When Decided

  • Statutory alimony is decided at the divorce trial.
  • Pendente lite alimony is decided at the Pendente Lite Hearing.
 
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